There can't be many of you out there that haven't heard of the Rocky movies that have been coming out over the last 25 years. The movies showed the rise of boxer Rocky Balboa from movies 1 through to 5. 1 and 4 being my personal favorites. Well not too long ago, it was announced that Rage had gotten the rights to produce a game based on our favorite movie boxer, and here we are with one of the first reviews of it. Here is a feature list:
Installation, Settings and Loading Speeds
Rocky comes on the single DVD-ROM. Load times are pretty short, each match only takes about 15-20 seconds to load so there is very little wait. Rocky also supports widescreen TV's if you have one which is a good plus point even early on.
As you have probably expected, Rocky is a boxing title, and a very good one at that. The game spans the whole of Rocky's 25 year long movie career as you take on over 20 fighters in the games main movie mode. Along the way you take on various adversaries from the five movies such as Apollo Creed, Clubber "Mr T" Lang, Ivan Drago and Tommy "The Machine" Gunn along with various other fighters as you try and go from an unknown fighter to the world champion.
As mentioned earlier, the movie mode is the main part of the Rocky game, at least it is for the single player. You begin the game as an almost unknown boxer (Rocky 1 as you name states) trying to fight and train you way to the top. You choose to start the game via one of three difficulty levels, Novice, Contender and Champ. I started off with the Contender level and this is probably the one I would recommend most as easy was as expected, very very easy and playing on this difficultly level means that the game could almost be completed in one sitting while the contender level seems to have the most realistic difficulty settings as some of the boxers even early on can be quite hard to beat.
The fights themselves are excellent, the atmosphere is almost perfect, each fighter taking part in the game walks up to the right in a proper movie like fashion. Each boxer has a certain theme tune to accompany him to the ring. The announcer then lets the crowd know who is fighting and where each boxer comes from. Then we get into the proper part of the game, the actual boxing match. The controls are easy to get used to, but they are hard to master. You move Rocky with the left thumbstick, head jabs are done with the X button, straight head punches with the Y button, body jabs with the A button and straight body punches with the B button. The dodge and evasive dodge is done via the left trigger button. There are also special controls such as hooks and uppercuts and a super punch which are done via the right trigger.
I don't pretend to know a great deal about boxing but Rocky plays an extremely good game, which is all that really matters here. Each fighter that you come up against seems to have a different style to their game, some are more defensive while others like to rush in with punch after punch. Using your punches and your blocks well together will really strengthen your game, I began by just jumping in and throwing punch after punch, but hardly laid a glove on my opponent. There is no better feeling in Rocky than dodging a punch and then coming in with a punch on your opponents side.
Each boxer has their own health bar and punch bar meters displayed at the top of the screen, the more you get hit, the more you health bar goes down, while the more punches that you throw, the more the bar goes down too. Each bar replenishes itself if you move away from the action for a little while. This means moving around the right is vital during the game. This system means that there really can be some great boxing matches and some really good comebacks, just like what happens in the Rocky films themselves.
The atmosphere is some of the best I have seen in any movie tie-in that has been releases, I'm not sure what makes the atmosphere so good, perhaps it is the music, some of the well worked speech, the excellent graphical representation of Rocky and the characters themselves or perhaps it is the music that is taken directly from the movies that helps here.
The next good point is the training that you do in the game. After matches you get the chance to take Rocky to the gym for various work outs that try to improve his strength, speed, stamina, determination and his movement. The workout that you do is done by pressing various buttons at the right time during the various training games that you take part in, such as punch mitts which improve strength, speed bags which obviously improve speed, skipping that gives you better stamina, sit-ups for determination and finally the heavy bag or meat locker to improve movement. The good thing about the training mode is that you don't actually have to do it, you can select "Autotrain" which lets you improve Rocky's attributes as much as you would if you did play the training games. After each boxing match, some of your attributes can go down due to the beating that you have taken.
There is also a sparring mode in the game which lets you try out the basic controls and the fight techniques, you can instruct your sparring partner to do things during the game such as stand, block or fight. There is also a command list that you can bring up by pressing the start button on your gamepad, this lists the various types of punches that you can try out. The multiplayer mode is called an exhibition match, from here you select which boxer each of you want to play as (There is only a two player mode obviously). The selection of boxers all depends on how far you have gotten in the movie mode. You will probably get the most out of the exhibition mode as you are unlikely to play through the movie mode more than once.
Graphics & Sound
Graphically Rocky proves to be a very good looking Xbox title. There are some excellent lighting effects, 3D crowds that actually look and act realistically for once, the punches that you throw look like they actually hit your opponent in Rocky too, something that a lot of other boxing titles have so far not managed to do. Things like blood that comes off of the boxers remain on the boxing mat, bottles are thrown into the ring from the crowd if your performance isn't up to scratch and also remain on the mat, the representations of all our favorite Rocky characters look excellent too, Rocky gets fatter and fatter the further you get into the game as well thanks to the game spanning his whole career.
The game also makes excellent use of the Rocky soundtrack, each boxer has his own theme too which is a pretty cool touch. Punches all sound good too as you try and beat your opponent to a pulp. The one problem I have is that the speech isn't as good as I hoped, some of the voice-overs are excellent, others not so good (the guy who plays Rocky's old trainer Mickey for instance), then you have Rocky's voice, these speech clips are taken directly from the movie and this means he hardly utters a word in the game and that the movie speech doesn't fit in with the rest of the games sound.
I really enjoyed playing Rocky, I have gotten the most out of the multiplayer side which as expected, is great fun when taking on friends in a winner stays on bout. The movie mode has a good atmosphere about it, the cutscenes are well done, if a little sparse and the graphics in the game are generally excellent. The only problem I really have with the game is the speech which sometimes doesn't fit in with the rest of the games quality which is a shame. Overall Rocky is an excellent Boxing title, much better than Knockout Kings so if you enjoy your boxing games make sure you get it.